The Year in Review: 2001

Person of the Year: Tony Blair

For our inaugural Person of the Year, we chose the world’s preeminent leader, British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The editorial board (that’s Eric and Rachel to you) debated long and hard. Should we pick Osama Bin Laden? Too negative. George W. Bush? Never!

Sen. James Jeffords, author Jo Rowling or baseball great Mark McGwire might have been selected, if not for recent events that made a lighter choice seem unacceptable.

And so we settled on Blair, a brilliant politician who was tested politically both at home and abroad this year.

Sure, some may criticize him for playing Robin to Bush’s Batman. And many across the pond say his world influence is upsetting Britain’s balance of power.

But from our perspective, he’s everything you could want in a leader.

We first fell in love with our Person of the Year while watching the Prime Minister’s Questions on C-SPAN. Here’s an articulate guy who can take on the House of Commons with nothing but a few pages of notes in front of him. (The session takes place each Wednesday for half an hour and the MPs do not generally tell Blair what they’re going to ask him about.) Just imagine Bush getting pelted with questions from the Senate once a week… Forget the hoopla about Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s briefings. This is the real highlight of C-SPAN’s schedule.

Our crush on the prime minister was complete after his Oct. 3 speech to the Labour Party. Blair has a coherent worldview — and the ability to express it. He laid out a brilliant domestic agenda, talking about the amazing things his party might do and the ways in which Britain could be a leader, not a follower in Europe. “This is an extraordinary moment for progressive politics,” he said. “Our values are the right ones for this age: the power of community, solidarity, the collective ability to further the individual’s interests.”

Blair also took on the Sept. 11 attacks and what the civilized world’s response to them should be. It was Blair who first named Bin Laden as Public Enemy No. 1 and Blair who first articulated how things were going to work. “I say to the Taliban: Surrender the terrorists; or surrender power. It’s your choice,” he said.

And, in a masterful stroke, Blair made globalization seem real — rather than an esoteric subject mostly left to protesters and Alan Greenspan, or a cutesy term reserved for Hillary Clinton’s village. “Today conflicts rarely stay within national boundaries,” Blair said. “Today a tremor in one financial market is repeated in the markets of the world. Today confidence is global; either its presence or its absence. Today the threat is chaos; because for people with work to do, family life to balance, mortgages to pay, careers to further, pensions to provide, the yearning is for order and stability and if it doesn’t exist elsewhere, it is unlikely to exist here.”

This line wins him bonus points, especially with Eric: “The state of Africa is a scar on the conscience of the world. But if the world as a community focused on it, we could heal it. And if we don’t, it will become deeper and angrier.” Blair’s the only world leader who has acknowledged the atrocities of Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe.

Sure, Blair’s calculating (witness how a former pal of President Clinton is chummy with Bush). But we’ll chalk that up to his political savvy. This guy survived an election year in which foot-and-mouth disease devastated not only his country’s farms but also its tourism industry. He obviously has a tremendous political gift, coupled with the charisma to pull off things that may seem impossible at first.

And that’s why he’s our Person of the Year.

Movies:

Rachel’s picks:
1. Amelie
2. Memento
3. The Lord of the Rings
4. Shrek
5. Ocean’s 11
6. Bridget Jones’ Diary
7. The Royal Tenenbaums
8. Black Hawk Down
9. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
10. The Golden Bowl

Eric’s picks:
1. Memento
2. The Lord of the Rings
3. Ocean’s 11
4. The Royal Tenenbaums
5. Sexy Beast
6. Amelie
7. Shrek
8. Black Hawk Down
9. Gosford Park
10. In the Bedroom

Albums:

Eric’s picks:
1. All About Chemistry, Semisonic
2. Rockin’ the Suburbs, Ben Folds
3. Reveal, R.E.M.
4. Today, Raul Malo
5. Gold, Ryan Adams
6. Every Single Day, Lucy Kaplansky
7. Zoom, Electric Light Orchestra
8. America Town, Five for Fighting
9. Last Man On Earth, Loudon Wainwright III
10. Weezer, Weezer

Rachel’s picks:
1. All About Chemistry, Semisonic
2. Reveal, R.E.M.
3. …All This Time, Sting
4. Skin, Melissa Etheridge
5. Etats d’Amour, Isabelle Boulay
6. Collection, Tracy Chapman
7. Every Single Day, Lucy Kaplansky
8. Gold, Ryan Adams
9. Volume 3: Further in Time, Afro Celt Sound System
10. Everyday, Dave Matthews Band

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